16 Sep 2022

I’m in the midst of a season of interviewing movement practitioners and leaders. One of the things I’m hearing over and over again is a reminder of the investment of time that DMM-type work requires.

One of the core high-value activities of DMM is, “Go out among the lost” and abundantly sow. In his book Megachurch to Multiplication, Chris Galanos quotes Stan Parks (my boss) in a typical Stan-ism: “The people who get the most groups started are the people who do the most asking.”

We hear a lot of miraculous and almost-miraculous stories about the people of peace who have been found. We hear fewer stories about the conversations where evangelists were turned away without fruit. For every story I’ve heard of someone who was desperate for the lost, intersected training, and began to apply it and saw fruit, I have heard many reports from movements about thousands of people who were trained–yet did nothing with it. Movement practitioners tell me of having to have dozens, perhaps even a hundred spiritual conversations to find a single person of peace. An hour or five among the lost won’t cut it.

Those who are involved in movements seem to think nothing of this time investment. They are out among the lost constantly, spending their time either in prayer or sharing or coaching. Is it that they are more spiritual? Or is it that they are less distracted? Years ago one coach told me that in the country he focused on, “There’s nothing else to do at night except sit around and tell testimonies of what God has done.” Materialistic poverty led to spiritual riches?

Whatever the reason, it seems to me — and others I’ve talked to — that many people in non-movement contexts (e.g. Westerners, among others) seem to want to “go out among the lost for an hour or so” and then become disaffected when they don’t find people of peace. “It’s not happening here,” we think. I wonder if it’s not happening here, or if, in the words of one movement leader, we have unrealistic expectations.

Would it help to hear more stories about disappointments? Perhaps the reason we hear stories about finding people of peace, but not about the stories of the many disappointments, is that the people telling stories instinctively know the hearers don’t really want to hear the stories about the grind. That’s a shame.

I know we want the Holy Spirit to lead us directly to the spiritually hungry person. I don’t know why he doesn’t regularly seem to do that. But I do wonder how God uses the many who turn us down to form us. Does it make us realize the precious nature of the spiritually hungry person? Does looking at so many different people and then finding the spiritually hungry in the least likely place make us realize we shouldn’t pre-judge the field? Do we go to all the places we expect to find fruit and realize God is leading us to the unexpected places? Is it a discipline that leads us to be charitably disposed to every individual we come across? Does it build a holy desperation in us?

Clearly, I have lots of ideas but no firm convictions. But what I do know is that, based on the evidence of what many movements are seeing, if you aren’t seeing fruit, one (and only one) possibility is that you haven’t had enough spiritual conversations. And possibly that’s because you haven’t spent enough time.